ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s attorney general has been authorized to launch a criminal investigation into whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo used state resources to write and promote his pandemic leadership book, the state comptroller said in a letter released Monday.
The letter dated April 13 by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office asked State Attorney General Letitia James to investigate whether the process of drafting, editing, selling and promoting the book violated state laws.
James’ office said it received the referral letter from the state comptroller but didn’t comment further.
Recent media reports have raised concerns about staff members who helped Cuomo, a Democrat, with his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” released last fall.
“Allegations have recently emerged that public resources may have been used in the development and promotion of the governor’s book,” DiNapoli wrote.
DiNapoli asked James’ office to investigate the “alleged commission of any indictable offense or offenses in violation of” laws that restrict the use of state property and resources for “personal purposes, private business purposes or other compensated non-governmental purposes.”
DiNapoli authorized the attorney general to prosecute any one believed to have violated those laws and to “take whatever other action you deem appropriate.”
That could include “appearing before and presenting all such matters to a grand jury,” he wrote.
Cuomo’s office hasn’t provided direct responses to a list of questions from The Associated Press, including the total number of staffers who helped Cuomo with the book and whether Cuomo received compensation based on how many books were sold. Cuomo’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Spokesperson Rich Azzopardi has previously said that people who helped with the project “did so on their own time” and that Cuomo’s office made every effort to ensure no state resources were used. “To the extent an aide printed out a document, it appears incidental,” he said.
Cuomo received permission from state ethics commissioners last year to write his book — with conditions.
He had to write the book on “his own time and not on state time,” according to state ethics rules. And, “no state property, personnel or other resources” could be used.
The governor said Monday that he asked some people who he mentioned in the book to “review” it.
“On the book, some people volunteered to review the book,” Cuomo said in a teleconference call Monday. “You look at the people who are mentioned in the book. I wanted to make sure they were okay with the mention.”
Azzopardi has also disputed criticism about Cuomo discussing the book in news conferences and media appearances: “An offhand mention about writing a book, or answering questions from the media about it in no way is an advertisement of endorsement of it.”
Cuomo has also repeatedly declined to reveal how much he has made for his book.
The governor, who allows reporters to view personal income tax filings each year, said Monday that he would disclose financial details in those tax documents: “You will see everything you want to see in the personal income taxes.”
Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press. AP reporter Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.